Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Review: Killing Bono, Belfast Film Festival

One killer movie with warning for wannabe rockers

Martin McCann as the U2 frontman

Killing Bono was partly filmed on Belfast’s ‘Golden Mile’, in the streets around Belfast Metropolitan College and at Frames nightclub.

The semi-biographical work tells the story of Dublin journalist Neil McCormick’s farcical efforts to eclipse former schoolmate Bono’s musical success.

The fast-moving black comedy is equal parts cautionary tale and madcap thriller.

The Chronicles Of Narnia star Ben Barnes is a revelation as the deluded and increasingly desperate McCormick.

Based on the erstwhile Hot Press writer’s memoir, it’s not clear how much is fact and how much is poetic licence.

But Killing Bono is a rip-roaring yarn regardless.

Robert Sheehan, of television’s Misfits, co-stars as Neil’s brother Ivan, who lost out on the chance to play second guitar in the pre-fame U2, then known as The Hype.

Sheehan, who previously impressed in the Belfast-set Cherrybomb, is excellent, showing his growing range as an actor.

West Belfast’s Martin McCann plays Bono, who appears in snatches throughout the movie.

Physically, McCann doesn’t fully convince — he seems more like a young Alex Higgins — but he certainly nails the U2 frontman’s voice.

Bono must have had something to do with getting the film made, as he comes across as an unbelievably accommodating, almost saintly figure.

U2’s music features briefly, most notably in the climactic showdown.

The soundtrack also includes several superb songs by the Grammy Award-nominated Joe Echo, alias Castledawson musician Ciaran Gribben.

If these had been the type of tunes the McCormicks were churning out, they may well have made it.

Belfast-born ||director Nick Hamm keeps things rattling along for most of the running time.

The plot only begins to lose steam in the final act, after one too many proclamations from Neil that stardom is just around the corner.

A highlight of the film is Peter Serafinowicz’s haphazard record company boss.

“I don’t even like music,” he splutters at one point, in between slamming down phones and strutting about in oversized sunglasses.

It’s an all-too-realistic portrayal of the type of leech the music business breeds so well, and could put some industry noses out of joint.

Elsewhere, the late Pete Postlethwaite camps it up in his final screen appearance, while comedian Jason Byrne has a minor role as an officious hotel receptionist.

Killing Bono is a hugely enjoyable film, and for those of us who have had our own brushes with fame, it will have added resonance.

In the early 1990s this writer was recruited to fill in on drums for Downpatrick rockers Ash at a couple of gigs, which were ultimately cancelled by the fledgling band.

It may have been the closest I came to the big time, yet I never felt compelled to try to kill Tim Wheeler.

If that ever changes, I’ll make sure to write a book and film about it.

ANDREW JOHNSTON

Bono finds what he’s looking for in Belfast

By Maureen Coleman

Guests at tonight's gala screening of Killing Bono will be familiar with much of the backdrop of the new music comedy.

Early last year several streets in Belfast city centre were transformed to resemble 1980s Dublin as shooting of the film got under way.

Most of the movie — based on the memoirs of music critic Neil McCormick — was filmed on location in and around Belfast, helping to consolidate the city's growing reputation as a mini-Hollywood. Additional photography took place in Dublin and London. And that's not the only local link.

Killing Bono was directed by Belfast man Nick Hamm, who was delighted to bring the film to his native city. On board as producer was another Northern Irish man Mark Huffam, who also produced Hollywood blockbusters Saving Private Ryan and Mamma Mia! The movie features Belfast's Marty McCann in the supporting role of Bono himself.

The soundtrack to the movie was provided by Castlewellan artist and Grammy award nominee Joe Echo (Ciaran Gribbin) and the project was funded by Northern Ireland Screen.

Filmed at the start of 2010, featuring local crews, supporting actors and extras, Killing Bono is one of the finest examples to date of homegrown talent coming together on such a large scale.

Producer Huffam said: “We were delighted to film in Belfast. This city lends itself better to period pieces and budget restrictions made it easier to film here than in London or Dublin. We had a brilliant cast and director and we’re confident with the product.”

The Northern Irish premiere of Killing Bono takes place tonight at the Movie House on Belfast’s Dublin Road.

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